An overseas Filipino worker's party-list solon on Wednesday expressed alarm over the rising number of OFWs afflicted with the human immunodeficiency virus after 90 OFWS were diagnosed with the deadly disease in January, up 33 percent from 68 in the same month last year.
In a statement, ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III said the January case brought to 6,345 the cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV since the government began passive surveillance of the virus in 1984.
OFWs now comprise 10 percent of the 63,278 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of January, according to Bertiz.
Of the 6,345 OFWs in the registry, 86 percent, or 5,471, were male with a median age of 32 years.
The 874 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.
Of the male OFW cases, 72 percent were found infected via sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men (2,283 from male-to-male sex and 1,651 from sex with both males and females).
HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. Though the condition still does not have any known cure, antiretroviral therapy has been known to slow down the virus.
Bertiz is counting on the Department of Labor and Employment to deliver “highly improved support” to the growing number of OFWs living with HIV, as mandated by the new AIDS Prevention and Control Law that took effect Jan. 25.
Section 37 of the new law compels the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, together with other agencies, to develop a program to provide stigma-free comprehensive reintegration, care, and support for OFWs with HIV, Bertiz said.
“Under the law, the economic, social and medical support is to be extended to all OFWs, regardless of employment status and stage in the migration process,” Bertiz said.
Section 17 of the law also requires all overseas-bound Filipino workers as well as Philippine government staff for foreign posting to undergo a seminar on the causes, manner of prevention, and impact of HIV and AIDS, prior to certification for deployment or assignment, Bertiz said.
“The preventive education seminar is to be provided for free and at no cost to OFWs or to the staff concerned,” Bertiz said.